43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Vox Pop: What default settings would you change?

As I am wont to do, I was thinking out loud on Twitter this morning.

Twitter message: 'I wonder how different the world might look if the default 'new meeting' time in calendar programs were 10 minutes instead of 1 hour'

I'm convinced that, for better or worse, a lot of computer-related habits come straight out of using the default settings. For example a stock Mail.app install checks your email every 5 minutes (I reset mine to 'Manual') and, without interdiction, Apple's mail program will also create all your new messages as "Rich Text" (Nuh uh. Mine? 'Plain Text').

And then, in some cases, even if you want to do things differently, you have to swim upstream to do so. In the case above, I can't set iCal or gCal's default to anything but 1 hour (any more than I can autoset multiple alarms1). God only knows what poor John Gruber would give to have Mail.app more easily let people quit top-posting.

The Question to You:

What default settings would you love to change in popular applications? Taken a step further, what excellent habits could be taught to users by looking at defaults as something beyond familiarity and day one ease-of-use? Could the aggressive use of smart or personalized defaults create a generation of short-meeting-makers and intersperse-responders?

Steve's picture

The read-only "preview pane" or...

The read-only "preview pane" or "reading pane" in alot of email clients, for example Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird.

Take Outlook for example. This has eight or nine "forms" or item templates, most of which are designed to be user-editable, (all of them are). You can read them in the reading pane, but you can only write if you pick up the mouse and open the item in a new window.* Not designed for writing.

Why? Why can't I edit there? Why can't I just start typing right on top of some mail I just got, maybe add a few comments, keywords before I file it away.? I can see it but I just ... can't ... quite ... change anything.

This is such a bogus limitation - watch how excited people get when they discover outliners, and start heaving all their data into Ecco Pro or whatever. I've read a Thunderbird thread about this (to edit a message, first drag it into Drafts, whch changes the date) and I just don't buy it.

Inbox Zero or not, you can spend a powerful amount of your day inside your mail client, and IF you have a whole bunch of stuff filed there from other people, then why is it such a stretch to imagine you might want to start keeping your own notes and scribbles and documents there?

Make mail clients great editors too.

  • yeah I know all about keyboard shortcuts



An Oblique Strategy:
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